Pre- and post-travel to do lists are among my favorite things. On the useful scale, I give them a ten. They’re so fabulous that I rank them up there with laughing, reading a really good book, the scent of clean laundry, Burdick’s hot chocolate, and Yosemite National Park.

These lists have become so indispensable that I’ve saved them on my computer to be modified as necessary before each trip. If you’re traveling this holiday season, perhaps these ideas will make your pre- and post-travel preparations simpler.

Pre-Travel To Do’s

Indoor and outdoor preparations:

Clean up (or at least tidy things up) at home before you depart. Dirty dishes, dust bunnies, and tangled sheets don’t exactly contribute to a relaxed ambiance at home – especially when you’re greeted with these things following a long day of travel at the end of your vacation. A clean and orderly home provides a peaceful haven for you long before – and after – your vacation adventures.

Make arrangements for pet and plant care, mail and package deliveries, and garbage and recycling removal in your absence.

Turn down your thermostat to 60-ish degrees Fahrenheit and switch your hot water heater to the “vacation” setting if you’ll be away for four or more days.

Tip: If you live in a region that’s susceptible to sub-freezing temperatures, setting your home thermostat to 60-ish degrees Fahrenheit will help ensure that indoor pipes don’t burst during a cold snap. You may also want to open the doors of under-sink cabinets to ensure that warmish air circulates around those pipes.

If you have long-term travel plans, you may wish to employ a house sitter, use timers on lights and outdoor sprinklers, and silence your telephone ringers. Don’t forget to turn off your alarm clock. In addition, consider sharing your travel itinerary with a neighbor, or a local family member or friend.

In your bathroom:

Take a moment to think about any personal care tasks that you may want to complete before hitting the road such as a haircut, manicure, pedicure, etc. Then plan accordingly.

Empty the waste basket and make sure that no water is running in the commode, sink, tub, or shower as you head out the door.

In your kitchen:

Make sure that any perishables will last until after your return. Don’t forget to empty the garbage, and remember to run the dishwasher or apply soap suds to any dirty dishes or utensils you find along the way.

Tip: A week before your departure, inventory your perishable edibles. Then incorporate them into your menu for the week or share them with friends, neighbors, or a local food bank or similar non-profit group. With a little advance planning, you can avoid needlessly wasting perfectly good food.

In your home office:

Identify the bill payments, business letters, birthday cards, thank you notes, gifts, and any other items that should be sent during your travel period. And don’t forget about the library books that are due soon. Then make arrangements to take care of these things before you head out of town.

Tip: If you regularly make financial contributions to a church or civic organization, submit your donations before your trip so that those benefiting from your generosity have ongoing support despite your absence.

Packing To Do’s

Unless you’re traveling to the moon or Antarctica, you probably pack the same types of season-appropriate clothing for all of your trips. Save this handy spreadsheet and use it to create your customized packing list this holiday season, and in the future.

Tip: Always pack easily interchangeable clothing, shoes, and accessories. Before you pack, think through what you’ll need during each day of your trip – from rise ‘n’ shine to lights out – to ensure that you don’t leave any necessities behind.

If you’re interested in taking a recorded book along for the ride, be sure to reserve it at your local library in advance of your departure date. Same goes for DVDs, music selections, books, etc.

Just before you head out:

Take at least a few moments to sit quietly. Literally. I use this time to pray. I have some friends who use this time to collect their thoughts. Other friends use this time to think about what they may have forgotten to pack. Dedicated quiet time is always a good thing – including just before you head off to the airport, train station, bus depot, or highway.

Post-Travel To Do’s

After returning home from a relaxing trip, it’s best to play catch-up in a relaxed – albeit organized – fashion. Upon arriving at your clean home, take a moment to jot down the catch-up items on your radar. Then prioritize them and complete as appropriate in whatever timeframe works for you.

First, unless you like a cold house and frigid showers, I recommend that you turn up your thermostat and reinstate the normal setting on your hot water heater. After that, your to do list may include some of the following items: pet care, grocery shopping, unpacking, laundry, reading mail and email, listening to voicemails, laundry, laundry, laundry, trip-related thank you notes, paying bills that are due soon…and reflecting on your recent adventures.

With a little thoughtful planning, pre- and post-travel preparations are hassle-free. So travel forth – and bon voyage!

* Photos by Jonathan Eggers

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